While there are a host of different ways to clear your body of toxins, drinking charcoal lemonade may take the cake for the most unique.
But let’s be real — a detoxifying drink that sparks as much curiosity as a black lemonade deserves a bit more explanation.
So let’s dig into what charcoal is, how it may benefit you, and what it’s doing in your lemonade.
If you’re hip to the wellness scene, you’ve probably noticed a new ingredient sneaking its way into your detox drinks.
Charcoal is taking over everything from lemonade, to lattes. But what exactly is this charcoal, and what’s it doing in your drink?
Right off the bat — we’re not talking about the charcoal that you use to grill up some BBQ.
Activated charcoal (AC) comes from carbon-based compounds like coconut shells or peat that have been heated and decomposed.
The charcoal becomes “activated” at high temperatures, which creates a surface area that’s ideal for the adsorption of drugs and toxins[*].
Okay, so what’s “adsorption?”
How It Works
When something is adsorbed, it gets stuck to the walls of another substance. In this case, you can think of the activated charcoal like a mass of glue, picking up all the toxins and drugs in its path, and eliminating them from your body.
It makes sense then that the most common use for activated charcoal (prior to it’s lemonade and latte days) was for acute poisoning.
Nowadays, people are taking activated charcoal to get ahead of absorbing unwanted molecules into their system.
Here’s the idea;
You take activated charcoal powder along with potentially toxic food, beverages, or drugs. This way, the charcoal traps the toxins in your gut, eliminating them before your body can absorb them into circulation.
Adding charcoal to lemonade is a simple and delicious way to incorporate this detox ingredient into your diet. Fortunately, charcoal has virtually no taste so you could add it to almost any beverage and reap the benefits.
The use of activated charcoal outside of acute poisoning is a fairly new concept. Research on its health benefits, however, is catching up with the fad.
Some research-backed benefits include:
- Detoxification of the gastrointestinal tract (specifically in acute poisoning)
- Supports kidney health
- Cholesterol reduction
- Calms indigestion (gas, bloating)
Some people claim that taking activated charcoal while drinking can help prevent hangovers. While research done in humans doesn’t strongly support this claim, many people swear by it[*].
Let’s just say the jury’s still out on that one.
#1 Acute Poisoning
Activated charcoal is often used as a “gastrointestinal decontaminant.” In other words, it decontaminates your gut.
When people overdose on medication, drugs, or alcohol, they’re basically overloading their body with substances that it doesn’t want or need.
Charcoal works exceptionally well at binding unwanted toxins.
But here’s the deal.
If you don’t take it within a short time after the drugs or alcohol, it may be too late for it to do its job. If you wait too long, the toxins will get absorbed by your body before they can get trapped by the charcoal[*].
DISCLAIMER: If you or anyone you know overdoses, call 911 immediately, do not try to remedy it yourself.
#2 Kidney Disease
Supporting your organs of detoxification is an essential aspect of self-care no matter how old you are, or what your current health status is.
However, when one of your organs is weak, it becomes extraordinarily crucial.
When you suffer from kidney disease, you lack the appropriate detoxification processes to remove toxins from your blood. This leads to a build-up of toxins, specifically waste products of muscle breakdown and metabolism.
Research shows that along with a modified diet, supplementing with activated charcoal can decrease the concentrations of kidney-related toxins significantly[*].
Kidney dysfunction can also cause havoc in your gut, leading to abnormal levels of toxins which damage the lining of your intestines. This can create increased blood toxicity as particles are allowed to pass more easily from your digestive tract into internal circulation.
Animal research shows that activated charcoal can bind the toxins that would be damaging to the gut, and eliminate them — effectively saving your gut lining from damage[*].
#3 May Reduce Cholesterol
When LDL cholesterol is oxidized in your blood, it can contribute to the progression of atherosclerotic plaques, which can lead to heart disease. On the other hand, high levels of HDL cholesterol can help balance the LDL in your body and keep your heart healthy and happy.
Activated charcoal has a positive effect on your cholesterol levels, increasing HDL while decreasing LDL cholesterol[*].
How does it work this magic?
In your digestive tract, your gallbladder releases bile salts which contain cholesterol. Activated charcoal, with its strong binding capacity, can absorb some of the cholesterol and eliminate it from your body.
Much like the binding and elimination of toxins, activated charcoal can help remove excess cholesterol before it gets reabsorbed into your circulation[*].
#4 Helps Calm Indigestion
Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, can occur for a number of reasons. Overeating, poor digestive juices, eating too fast, and eating the wrong foods are just a few.
Symptoms associated with indigestion include gas, bloating, feeling of slow digestion, reflux, and sometimes nausea.
While not life-threatening, these symptoms can become incredibly uncomfortable. Some people may even avoid certain foods to dodge the discomfort that could follow.
When researchers gave a group of volunteers activated charcoal after a meal that would typically be gas producing, they saw a significant decrease in indigestion[*].
But this phenomena isn’t necessarily new information.
An over-the-counter medication from France called Carbosymag combines activated charcoal with magnesium and been used for over 20 years to treat indigestion. When put to the test, researchers found that this combination decreased gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and heartburn[*].
As tempting as it may be to want to mix some charcoal into every beverage you consume, there are some precautions to be aware of.
#1 May Reduce Absorption of Micronutrients
You now know that activated charcoal does a fantastic job of trapping toxins in your gut.
The problem is, it may also be trapping some of the good stuff — specifically, your water-soluble micronutrients.
This is one reason why taking activated charcoal daily may not be a good idea.
#2 May Reduce Absorption of Medications
Another case where AC’s strong detoxification capabilities may backfire is with prescribed medications.
Unfortunately, activated charcoal can’t discriminate between drugs taken for recreation, vs. drug taken for health reasons.
- Tylenol (acetaminophen)
- Carbamazepine (anticonvulsant)
- Dapsone (anti-inflammatory, antibiotic)
- Digoxin (blood pressure support)
- Norpace (antiarrhythmic)
- Dilantin (anticonvulsant)
- Feldene (NSAID)
- Quinine (Anti-parasite)
- Dextropropoxyphene (narcotic pain reliever)
- Tricyclic antidepressants
For this reason, check with your health care practitioner before taking charcoal if you’re on any medication.
#3 May Cause Nausea and Vomiting
In rare cases, taking activated charcoal has been shown to induce nausea and vomiting.
It should be noted, however, that these were cases where people were brought in to the hospital for poisoning. That factor could undoubtedly have contributed to their reaction to the AC[*].
If your goal is to trap toxins before they enter your bloodstream, then taking your AC with your meal or beverage is essential.
There isn’t much AC can do once your body begins absorbing, so make sure to get ahead of that process.
While the charcoal lemonade is a tasty way to get your AC in, you can also take it as a supplement in capsule form. Typical capsule dosage ranges from 280mg to 560mg.
Activated charcoal may not be the “cure-all” that some people claim, but it certainly has its benefits. As a strong adsorbent, it can protect your body by trapping toxins that you consume in foods and beverages.
However, that same adsorbent quality can backfire by trapping essential nutrients and medications.
As is true with most things in life, activated charcoal should be used in moderation. And of course, for keto purposes, make sure to use sugar-free sweeteners in your activated charcoal lemonade.
Charcoal Lemonade Recipe
Most lemonades admittedly contain a ton of sugar or other harmful sweeteners. Avoid the charcoal lemonades at the grocery store and the nearest restaurant and make them yourself at home instead.
Check out this recipe, with the perfect ratio of lemon juice to water to stevia. Plus, the secret ingredient — activated charcoal!